8:11 p.m., Dec. 17
G.I. Joe cartoons, a modded Xbox, dubstep, Maxim magazines, and bikini babes making sandwiches and laughing at all of your stupid jokes.
It may sound like a thirteen-year-old’s vision of the afterlife, but, for just under two months now, Café HAPA in Midway has been very much a reality.
“We’re like Hooters with less clothes and better service,” explains a beach-ready Thu as a friend and I stack up HAPA’s homemade giant Jenga set. “We just wanted to make a place where people could hang out and relax.”
Seating about 25, Café HAPA is the lovechild of an accountant and a software engineer who were inspired by similar venues in Orange County.
“It’s the kind of place I was always looking for in my twenties,” says Vietnamese/Irish co-owner Emmett Morgan.
Sure, the place looks like a cross between a dorm room (albeit a well-kept one) and an O.C. happy ending hangout, but don’t expect to order outside the menu at Café HAPA. The owners emphasize that operations are strictly legal — a foresightful clarification in the occasionally seedy Midway District.
“With the bikini theme, we wanted to break the ice and make it personable,” says Morgan.
And personable it is. Not contented to serve as simple eye candy, baristas Thu and Envy make casual small talk with my buddy and I (and, yes, laugh at our stupid jokes) while we drink Vietnamese iced coffee and tea. Thu even offers me some of the steamed pork bun she's eating for dinner.
“Hapa is a Hawaiian word meaning ‘half,’” explains Vietnamese co-owner Liem Le. “In this case it means a fusion of American and Asian food and drinks.”
As such, HAPA specializes in pork and chicken banh mi sandwiches, iced coffee with sweet condensed milk, aloe drinks (try the Aloe Palmer with lemonade), and a house ice cream cookie sandwich.
Slinging $4.99 drinks and $8.99 sammys, Café HAPA certainly isn’t the cheapest joint in town, but so what?
The simultaneous novelty and sincerity of this strip mall Shangri-La is worth the few extra bucks, and you'll get a free drink if you bring a first-timer friend.
3960 W Point Loma Blvd. Ste. G - Midway
Hours: 11 to 11 daily